My GMAT Experience

I studied full-time for two months before taking the GMAT. I was aiming for a 600, which is the minimum score that the business school I would like to apply for requires. Well, guess what happened? At the end of the CAT  what I saw on the computer screen was a mere 590! Yep, I missed my goal by only ten points… How disappointing…

Luckily, there are still several months left before the application deadline, this gives me plenty of extra time to rehearse everything and exercise, however what I noticed immediately after unsuccessfully taking the test was a sudden drop of motivation.

I wonder whether this happens to many of those who are unsatisfied with their score. The only way a low score can defeat you, is by taking away your motivation of doing well. For this reason, my next goal must be to overcome this little incident and start again studying and preparing, with more determination than ever!

What actually is The GMAT?

Here a brief explanation for those who do not know yet what the GMAT is.

The GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) is a Computer Adaptive Test (CAT) used by over 6000 business schools around the world as a tool for selecting the best candidates among thousands of applicants. The maker of the test is the GMAC (Graduate Management Admission Council), an international non-profit organization that specializes in products and services to academic institutions and prospective graduate management education students.

The test has been out there already for decades. Originally created by a bunch of American universities in the sixties, has gradually gained popularity internationally, and it is today the gold standard for all the major business schools around the globe.

What does the GMAT test?

The concepts tested on the GMAT are basic knowledge of the English language and mathematics (algebra, geometry, number properties, rates and statistics. Although the core competences needed to take the GMAT are quite limited, the difficulty of the test comes from combining different concepts.

In general, the GMAT is structured in a way that rewards three things:

  1. patterns recognition,
  2. attention to the right detail,
  3. active thinking.

According to the GMAT, and based on the experience it collected over decades, these are the three core skills required to succeed in graduate management school first and then in business world.

Structure of the Test

Four are the parts that form the GMAT:

  1. Analytical Writing Assignment (AWA); Analysis of an argument, time 30 minutes. Here, the test takers needs to assess the validity of a short argument and does so by analysing the evidence provided, finding the unwritten assumptions the author bases its argument on and evaluating the logic behind the conclusion. The argument is always a short text of a few lines and it always presents some major flaws.
  2. Critical Reasoning; (Time 30 minutes) This is the newest section of the test and it includes twelve questions that can be answered based on several sources (tables, diagrams or text) which need to be interpreted in order to find the correct answer.
  3. Quantitative; 37 questions for 75 minutes. There are two types of questions in the quantitative section: problem solving and data sufficiency. While problem solving questions are very similar to what students have seen in high school, data sufficiency is a unique type of question found only on the GMAT.
  4. Verbal; 41 questions for 75 minutes. Three types of questions: sentence correction, reading comprehension and analysis of an argument.

How did I Prepare

So, what did I do during those two months I spent studying?

I guess, the main reason behind my failure was a complete lack of strategy. No matter how much time you spend on something, if you are unorganized, your efforts will be wasted. First thing I did was to collect and enormous amount of materials, such as video lessons, textbooks, old questions from the real test and even some software which simulates the real test.

The real problem comes when it is time to actually start studying. With such a massive amount of stuff, the challenge is prepare an effective study plan, which obviously I failed completely.

There is no point listing the mistakes I made during my first two inconclusive months of study. On the contrary, it makes much more sense to list what my mistakes taught me (the hard way!).

  • Video Lessons or Textbooks? What I suggest, based on my experience is both. The best approach is to read the theory first and then watch the video to better understand the core concepts.
  • Practice, practice and practice… but how? Textbooks offer a great tool, the practice questions are solved and commented. Spending time reviewing questions is a great investments, it allows to deeply understand the concepts tested. Being able to solve a problem, answering a question correctly is not enough, you must ace each question! Take CAT test at least once a week just to keep track on your improvement. In a nutshell: quality over quantity
  • Flashcards. This is a fantastic tool. Many decks of cards are available online. Use them! In addition prepare also your own deck. There are many software for this purpose, or if you prefer holding a real deck of cards (like I do) you can actually make it using paper and a pen.

To conclude, the key to a successful GMAT is strategy. Do not think of it as an obstacle but rather as a learning opportunity. Now that I am done writing this, I better get back on studying. Good luck to all future GMAT test takers.

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